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Using 480 x 360 footage in 1440 x 1080 timeline

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Dawn Roe
Using 480 x 360 footage in 1440 x 1080 timeline
on Nov 2, 2012 at 1:50:18 pm

I have a student working on a simple project (meaning, high end production values are not expected here) for an introductory video course. The specs for the HD footage she is using and sequence presets are 1440 x 1080, 29.97fps, HDV 1080i60 compressor. She would like to layer in some footage from old home movies that have been uploaded to YouTube which are 480 x 360, already converted to h.264 codec.

Any suggestions for the most straightforward method to combine these two types of video? Again, professional quality is not expected, but the best possible visuals would be great (these will be projected, not streamed on-line). I think it would be fine, for instance, to crop into the 4:3 footage to match the 16:9 format for instance, and since the visuals will be superimposed, some loss should be okay (I think/hope).

Any advice is appreciated.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Using 480 x 360 footage in 1440 x 1080 timeline
on Nov 2, 2012 at 2:19:48 pm

USe the free MPEG STREAMCLIP utility to convert the h.264 files to a codec that will work in your HD timeline, because FCP7 doesn't really edit h.264 well.

As to how to mix the smaller square footage into the wide shot, this is an aesthetic issue. If you crop as you suggested, you can turn it into 16"9 ration but likely that ruins the framing of the original shots, either cutting off the tops of heads, or unnatrually cutting off stuff in the lower half of the frame.

There are numerous aesthetic techniques for layering the images. One thing you can do is take a duplicate track of the 4:3 footage, blur it, then stretch it to a 16:9 proportion, and use this as a "frame" behind the clean 4:3 footage. You could also do multiple picture-in-picture effects, like placing the largest 4:3 image to one side and filling in the empty space to the other side with smaller duplicate copies, all in synch. You could also put up a still of a projector screen and "project" the 4:3 footage onto that wider 16x9 scene. Same with projecting it into the screen of an old TV from that erea, the TV image is 16:9 overall with it's own background.


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Dawn Roe
Re: Using 480 x 360 footage in 1440 x 1080 timeline
on Nov 4, 2012 at 11:54:15 pm

Thank you, Mark! This is helpful info and you've given me a lot of options to think about. For now, I've decided to have the student project the home movies onto the wall and record them with the HD camera - this way, same format! Works for now. Thanks again.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Using 480 x 360 footage in 1440 x 1080 timeline
on Nov 5, 2012 at 1:52:08 am

Well, I put "projected" in quotes for a reason. You don't have to ACTUALLY video-project the old videos from youtube on a wall and then shoot that... that is about the worst possible way to go. You will lose all kinds of quality doing that. Save that trick for actual films being projected, not video clips you already have in digital form.

What I meant was, get or shoot a still frame in the wide format, of a blank projector screen, make that the bottom track. Take the youtube video that you've captured, convert it to the right codec using MPEG Streamclip, put that in the next layer above the first layer.

Use the "crop" tools in the Motion tab to cut the youtube video into a tighter frame and position it over the white portion of the projector still shot. Change your blend mode on the video track by highlighting it, then going up to the top of the window to the drop-down menu items: Modify>Composite mode, and change that mode to "overlay ... You might also try "screen".

Bam, now it LOOKS like what you were about to have them do physically, only the quality and controllability of the screen and everything is much better. MUCH better. Slightly shrinking the source footage adds the illusion of more sharpness as well.

This is how we do it "downtown", so walk the kids thru this. It really is easier than playing with actual projectors and such, and its a skill they will need to deploy a lot in various future edit situations.
Here, let me show you:

Still image of a projection screen, you could also make your own from scratch, with a few rectangles and lines drawn in Photoshop...:





Pretend this is the youtube footage:





Here I have layered two tracks, the screen on the bottom and the video to be "projected" on it, above:



Now, we select the cow video, scale it down and apply cropping with feathering, I also adjusted the aspect ratio a bit on both tracks using the "distort" slider , these are all in the "motion" tab:









Next, we scale the projector screen to better fit the cow movie, and we start playing with the composite modes, as mentioned above. I decided to add a third layer in the back with a centered gradient, to cover the gaps created when we manipulated the proportions of the projector screen image. it also seems to "sell" the idea of a projection's light spilling a little around onto a dark wall behind, and it makes things look deeper and more dimensional.




Here is a still of the final look, you could still do some tweaking:




For bonus effect, go to Video Effects>Stylize and try a bad film effect, or a strobe effect, just to the video cow layer, to make the footage seem older and more "grungy".

All of this takes very little time to set up and requires no special plug-ins beyond standard stuff in the program. You owe it to the kids to teach them solid techniques, let them push the boundaries a little.


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Dawn Roe
Re: Using 480 x 360 footage in 1440 x 1080 timeline
on Nov 5, 2012 at 2:34:10 am

Sorry for the confusion - I knew you didn't mean to literally project. This is the solution we came up with (for now) for a number of reasons. The students in my class are creating installation pieces that will ultimately be projected, and in this instance, the quality of the home movie footage is not critical, as she will be superimposing her HD footage over top of it. Your information will likely prove useful for future students, however. Thanks.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Using 480 x 360 footage in 1440 x 1080 timeline
on Nov 5, 2012 at 3:24:11 am

You're most welcome, I just didn't want the kids to pick up bad habits or get discouraged by results that are less than impressive, when they really do have the tools at their fingertips. Really, this method is so easy, it took less time for me to do it than to write about doing it. About four minutes. Show the kid my recipe and I bet you she or he will be able to do the exact same quality in about ten minutes. Plus, watch them light up when they figure it out, their pride... as a teacher, you know just how rewarding that is.

Best of luck to you.


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Dawn Roe
Re: Using 480 x 360 footage in 1440 x 1080 timeline
on Nov 5, 2012 at 11:48:16 am

I appreciate you taking the time to respond and to offer a sound method for working with this footage. In this instance though, I don't think it's necessarily a bad habit to work in this manner, as the work being created is for an art piece and the (college art major) student has a particular vision for the work, and part of the lossy quality of the footage will be in keeping with her aesthetic. Whereas, a picture-in-picture type of visual would take away from the content of the piece as a whole.

Although, if she finds the results unacceptable, I will definitely suggest she use your method - just without the image of the screen, possibly feathering the edges more and carefully placing the home movie footage very particularly within the secondary scene. It all depends on what kind of experience she wants the viewer to have - so I'll leave it up to her.

Thank you again for the detailed suggestions!


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